OMAHA, Neb. (CNS) — Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha said he was disappointed that Creighton University’s president said the Jesuit-run institution will extend health care benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees in 2015.
Same-sex marriage is not legal in Nebraska, and the beneficiaries are in same-sex marriages performed in states where such unions are legal.
An amendment to the Nebraska Constitution that was approved by voters in November 2000 defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and prohibits recognition of same-sex relationships under any other name.
Jesuit Father Tim Lannon, Creighton’s president, announced the benefits would be extended in an Oct. 27 letter to university trustees.
In his statement issued the same day, the archbishop said he strongly disagreed with the priest’s decision.
“Despite Father Lannon’s claim that this is not a statement of approval of same-sex marriages, this is precisely the message that the university is giving,” he said. “I am dismayed that the recommendation of the University Benefits Committee is thought to supersede divine law regarding marriage.”
Father Lannon in his letter said he had informed Archbishop Lucas before he announced the decision and acknowledged “his disagreement and disapproval.”
“The decision was not made lightly,” the priest said. “After much prayer and discernment, I believe the extension of benefits is the right thing to do at Creighton. The decision involves the tension between the church’s teaching on same-sex marriage and social justice concerns for the care and well-being of our colleagues’ families.”
But Archbishop Lucas in his statement said that “there is no tension between Catholic teaching and social justice.”
“Both are grounded in the same truths about the nature of the human person, the complementarity of man and woman and the meaning of human life and love,” the archbishop said. “When we experience tension in ensuring respect and just treatment for all persons, including those with same-sex attraction, we have a right to expect a Catholic university to help us see a just path forward, rooted in faith and founded on the rich Catholic intellectual tradition. Creighton has failed to fulfill this expectation in this expansion of benefits.”
Father Lannon also said that extending benefits is not “a statement of approval of same-sex marriages” but a response to the needs of faculty and staff.
The Catholic Church upholds the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful.
The church also teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful and that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
The University of Notre Dame in Indiana announced Oct. 8 that it would extend benefits to all legally married spouses of employees, including same-sex spouses. The law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages.
Two days earlier the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage in several states, including Indiana, the university noted in an email to faculty and staff eligible for benefits.
“This means that the law in Indiana now recognizes same-sex marriages and the university will extend benefits to all legally married spouses, including same-sex spouses,” the email stated. “Notre Dame is a Catholic university and endorses a Catholic view of marriage. However, it will follow the relevant civil law and begin to implement this change immediately.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, in whose diocese Notre Dame is located, said in a column in his diocesan newspaper, Today’s Catholic, that he was “glad that Notre Dame affirmed that as a Catholic university, it ‘endorses a Catholic view of marriage,’ though I would say that Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of marriage is more than ‘a view.'”
“I must admit my uncertainty at this time about the legal implications of Indiana’s law for our Catholic institutions,” he wrote. “Notre Dame believes that the law requires the university to extend the legal benefits of marriage to ‘same-sex married couples’ in its employ.
“I would like to see further study of what the law requires as well as what religious liberty protections Notre Dame and our other Catholic institutions have so as not to be compelled to cooperate in the application of the law redefining marriage,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Our Indiana Catholic Conference is studying these issues.”